On the slope of the City of David hill, where the Kidron and Ben Hinnom valleys meet, the Ancient Shiloah Pool was discovered just a few years ago. This magnificent pool was constructed 2,000 years ago during the days of King Herod, in Jerusalem's glorious building tradition. This grand pool served as an important meeting point for Jerusalem's pilgrims, who would arrive in the city to visit the Temple Mount on the three major Jewish holidays: Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth) and the Festival of Weeks (Shavuot).
The pool is mentioned in the New Testament as the place where Jesus has performed a miracle, as he healed a blind man (John 9 7). An impressive road once connected the Shiloah Pool to the Temple Mount and served as the central axis for all of Jerusalem's pilgrims and visitors. Shops and businesses once lined the length of the Herodian Road and enjoyed the road's centrality and the wide exposure that they had to the many pilgrims who filled Jerusalem on the holidays. The way that leads from the Shiloah Pool in the direction of the Temple Mount reached 600 meters into the valley whose Greek name once was the "Tyropoeon," which means the valley of the cheese mongers.
During the Hellenistic Period the road was lined with the shops and factories of dairy product manufacturers, such that when the winter rains would come, the valley would be washed clean of the refuse and smells that were a by-product of the dairy industry. During Jerusalem's Herodian period the road was paved, and at its foot the Shiloah pool was formed in order to store water for drinking and for the bathing purposes of the visiting pilgrims.
The road became more central and important because of the increasing pilgrimage phenomenon and because of the importance of the Shiloah Pool in the culture of the pilgrims. Specifically, the Shiloah played a critical role in the Libation Ritual ceremony -- during which the waters of the Shiloah Pool were brought as an offering at the Temple Mount itself.
In the drainage channels situated beneath the road, impressive artifacts were discovered from the time of the Great Revolt against Rome. The channels themselves and the rare artifacts discovered bear a striking resemblance to the description of Josephus in his book Wars of the Jews, Volume 6, which tells the story of the Jews who hid "in the tunnels beneath the Shiloah." Thus, this new excavation was able to authenticate Josephus' moving historical description of the aftermath of the Revolt in Jerusalem. City of David is now offering a new tour to showcase this new "Pilgrim's Route." The short version of the tour begins from the pool of Siloam and continues to the Givaty parking lot next to the City of David visitors' center. The tour length is about one hour.
City of David is open as follows:
Winter schedule (beginning on October 3, 2011):
- City of David Tours (English): 10 a.m., 2 p.m., Friday: 10 a.m.
- City of David Tours (Hebrew): 10 a.m., 2 p.m., Friday: 10 a.m.
- Hasmonean Aqueduct Tour (Hebrew only): Friday only: 10 a.m.
- Segway Tour (English): 1 p.m.
- Segway Tour (Hebrew): 10 a.m., Friday: 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m.
Summer schedule (until Rosh Hashanah, September 28):
- City of David Tours (Hebrew): 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 4 p.m., Friday: 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 p.m.
- City of David Tours (English): 10 a.m., 4 p.m., Friday: 10 a.m.
- Hasmonean Aqueduct Tour (Hebrew): Friday only: 10 a.m.
- Segway Tour (Hebrew): 10 a.m., 4 p.m., Friday: 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m.
- Segway Tour (English): 1 p.m.
Entrance to Warren's Shaft and Hezekiah's Tunnel is permitted until one hour prior to site closing time. Tickets can be purchased up to two hours prior to site closing time.
A person who has bought a ticket for the last entrance time to Warren's Shaft cannot continue his tour through Hezekiah's tunnel.
Paid parking is available at the Givati parking lot.
Tours in English are available on site for visitors. For an up-to-date schedule please visit http://www.cityofdavid.org.il. Group tours are available by reservation in advance. For information and reservations call 02-626-8700 or email [email protected]. For groups email [email protected].
General admission pricing is 27 shekel for adults (about $8) and 14 shekel for children ($4). For those prefering a guided tour (highly recommended) the price is 60 shekel per adult and 45 shekel per child. Independent travelers that are members of Travelujah can receive a 15 percent discount in advance by contacting Travelujah.
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Publication date: September 20, 2011